The beautiful people are all dancers
I was soaring down the 33 on my way home from the dry cleaners, blasting Sam’s Town by The Killers. A self-help album intensely beloved by me. When we were suffering in high school my sister and I had the album burnt to a CD, or maybe it was an original disc, in our family’s early aughts Jetta sedan with crank down windows and a Best Buy media player. The last line of When You Were Young, “He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus, but more than you’ll ever know.” Haunting. Then, I thought it was a wistful line about bad boys. Now, I see it’s a much darker warning about predators, everywhere, looming amongst the moony-eyed, the soft, the fanciful. I come up with a good impression of Brandon Flowers, he’s sort of doing an Ian-Curtis-meets-Freddy-Mercury-meets-(of-course-)Bowie thing but American, which somehow shakes down to something Grace Jones adjacent. There’s nowhere else you can howl out the songs of your wretched suburban experience but in your Jetta wagon, with a sunroof, the lefthand backseat passenger electric window button broken, exiting town, where, at the cleaners, the system was down, and for the first time in your life you had exact cash. In the back of the car is a vintage beige plaid polyester skirt suit, which, I don’t know, there has to be, at some point, some reason for. To look depressed and coquettish, and bear legs.
Every day someone wonders whether popular yet unserious cultural objects ought to be defended. I don’t think The Killers are joking, but they were very popular. But to just the right degree. The kind of music that endlessly brings stuff up, lyrics you can listen to while tucking and rolling dramatically onto the floor, spreading your wings like Ann Reinking. Help yourself to these rhythms, they tell you, there’s enough for absolutely everyone. No reason to defend this sort of thing when it’s just out there, wringing you out.
I’m still bewildered by popular music. I feel like I went into a coma in 2007. I’ve the skin of a 20 year-old yet I don’t know what they’re on about. Barely sure where to find new music. I know for sure where to get the old stuff. And like book publishing, I can’t understand why people complain so fiercely about the state of the industry when we will never, in our lives, consume all of what already out. Maybe it’s because I’m too lazy to write a novel, and comforted that so many other people already did. The only reason to write a book is so that I could make the speaking fees. I already like myself too much, no real incentive to finish a bound text unless in some deeply out-of-character turn, I wrote something so potentially popular that it sparked a bidding war, and landed me hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars up front. I could finally get ahead of my love of fine decor and textiles, pay for my CV.
Listening to Sam’s Town by The Killers gives me hope for my so far minor self-discipline because if I could make that album, I’d be making it. There has to be a book like this, that hasn’t been written (or, more likely, hasn’t been written in English), and could operate like the flagrant self-help of fiction. Would it be serious? Would it be literature? I already paid some very wealthy people to certify me with the authority to give you an answer but what’s in fashion now is to never say so exactly.
Thanks for this. I too think often of that song and am so happy for this reminder... "He doesn't look a thing like Jesus but he talks like a gentleman." My heart is racing just thinking about belting out this song on the open road. I think I might have to take a night time ride to get it out of my system :)